Online communities are all the rage, and it seems like in this day and age (does it make me old to say that?), everyone wants overnight success on the internet. What is success though? Some would argue success is building a large community. We hear the term viral often. Going viral is defined as a picture, video or some form of communication being spread quickly and widely or popularized by means of social media. While that an incredible way to be seen and maybe even build a large following, I tend to wonder if it’s a true measure of success given the large community built may not be a loyal community.
Building a community is so much more than vanity metrics such as a large following. Building a community is about having an established voice, making people feel seen and heard, and encouraging users to interact with you, your content, and each other. So how does an individual become truly successful at building a loyal community, not just a large one? I initially became a loyal member of Break the Diet! It’s a Lifestyle and eventually an active follower of founder, Gus Kalathakis; and here’s how…
Gus seems to have begun his social networking with a desire to spread the word about Isagenix, a protein shake and overall nutrition system that worked for him. The approach he took to spread the word was different than the rest. There was no sales approach that I noticed. In fact, perhaps quite the opposite. I recall seeing content of Gus eating huge slices of pizza or showing his sweet Greek grandmother attempting to feed him more cookies when he’d visit her home. This encouraged lots of interaction. HOW do you eat that and not gain weight? Your grandmother is so sweet, what is she baking? Do you really eat cookies and pizza? GENIUS. You see, Gus wasn’t making anything up here. He was just using real life situations to prove that although he was healthy and fit, in part due to the nutrition from Isagenix and the lifestyle changes he made with their help, he was also human and faced with the same challenges we are. His content was relatable and thus, inspired interaction.
Most of us can agree that people that try too hard just aren’t fun to follow. People who make their social media world seem perfect; well, they seem fake. Finding a mix of positive and real isn’t easy to come by, but Gus found the blend and owned it. Gus produces positive content that somehow relates back to his niche, which is likely intended but certainly not obvious. Instead of just posting an inspirational quote or two, he gives some background on how he can relate to the quote. He humanizes the quote. In a genuine way, he has found a way to inspire and doesn’t seem to shy away from controversial material; but always seems to make everyone feel included. Positivity goes far and pulls people back in for more!
Consistency is key
Gus established his brand voice and never looked back. As a follower, without even looking at historical posts, I can tell you all about him and how he would present something. This is because he has been consistent in his messaging and his voice is clear. There is no guessing or surprising when it comes to content. It’s a guarantee that if you’re looking for feel good, humorous, and encouraging content, Gus is your guy. Unlike many content creators who are talking to an audience, Gus is talking to YOU, and makes it clear; and because of this, you will talk back.
Friends, not followers…
So many of us follow people on social media, but we don’t communicate with them. We are lurkers. We know them, we’re slightly interested in their day-to-day lives, and we may like content occasionally. Comment though? That’s rare, because then we are ‘seen’, and truth be told…we aren’t friends, we’re just followers. Not with Gus. My family knows Gus through the Greek church, high school, and more recently, Isagenix; but, to say we were friends is a far stretch. Truth is, we were acquaintances, UNTIL I got the message. On my birthday the year I began to follow Gus on Facebook, he directly messages me to wish me a Happy Birthday and to ask me how I have been. This seems like a silly thing to remember, but as a lover of social marketing, it sat with me. It was GENIOUS. You see, he’s a nice guy and I do believe he would wish me a happy birthday, like so many do on social media. What broke the mold in this case was a direct message seems far more personal than a canned comment, and IT WORKED. A little extra time to make friends as opposed to gain followers went a long way for me, and likely for the nearly 20,000 people that follow him between Facebook and Instagram.
When you really dig into social communities and how they work, I think it would be a tough sell to say Gus hasn’t done an incredible job of not only finding individuals who have similar interests as him but has found a way to truly get them to interact with him and with one another. His hard work, ability to feel confident enough in himself to put his life on social media, and his overall positive attitude has built what some would say is not only a large community by numbers, but a community that has loyal members as opposed to lurkers. While it can be argued that some fall into luck when it comes to building a community, I believe Gus has used his ability to relate to people and his genuine desire to connect to start his own empire!